Friday, March 11, 2011

Jesus of Nazareth, vol 2

I was privileged to participate in a teleconference on Wednesday with a number of luminaries from the world of Scripture, including Ben Witherington III, whose books I have really enjoyed, and Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a longtime correspondent with the Holy Father, whose book plays such a prominent part in the Pope's first volume.

One of the things that has struck me especially about these two books is the way the Holy Father is exercising his office as Pope through them. Not by handing down official teaching, but by offering his own theological reflections, filling what he sees as a serious gap in the way the Bible is being read and studied, and inviting others into the conversation. The two Protestant professors in yesterday's conference both expressed profound appreciation for the Pope's writing, and said that this new book is one they would unhesitatingly recommend to their seminary students.

A few years ago, some months after Volume 1 was released, I was reading the book in an airport. A woman at my gate saw it and said to me, "My church group is doing a study of the Pope's book." It was a Protestant church.

What that said to me is, here is the Pope, reaching out to each and every reader of the Bible, whatever their theological tradition, and offering to start a global conversation, a global movement centered on the Scriptures and the person of Jesus. No other Christian leader is in a position to do something like that.

But he's not doing it in a "papal" way; he's writing as "Joseph, your brother."

Listen to Wednesday's press conference here!

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